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THE SCIENCE BEHIND MEDITATION Sometimes exhaling for a count of eight can be challenging as we generally breathe out in shorter intervals. That said, the exercise does tend to become easier with practice over time. 0

Most of us are likely aware that mindfulness meditation practices can be helpful for spiritual growth, inner peace and overall health. However, they may additionally be able to stop or reduce symptoms from serious psychological conditions. According to a study done by the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, there is a link between meditation-induced stress reduction and slowing certain neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Over the course of the mindfulness stress reduction study, participating Alzheimer’s patients showed a slower progression after eight weeks than patients who did not participate.

Meditation can help to reduce blood pressure.

Meditation practice leads to mental and physical relaxation. This means that studies are showing that mindfulness based interventions such as formal meditation can actually be an alternative medicine to pills.

Brain leads to neuroplasticity by regular meditation.

Meditation can sometimes be more effective than sleep.

In 2006, college students participating in a study associated with the effects of meditation practice were asked to either sleep, watch television, or meditate. After various increments of time, each student’s focus was tested by asking them to press a button whenever a green light appeared on a screen in front of them. Surprisingly, the students who meditated outscored even the sleepers by a whopping 10%. A Mindfulness practice such as meditation can be a helpful way to keep your brain alert and and be your best self for the present moment.

Meditation can be a more effective painkiller than morphine.

Meditation as a painkiller works by calming the somatosensory cortex in the brain, while inciting activity in other parts of the brain’s. Research done by Wake Forest Baptist University found that meditative practice has the power to decrease the intensity of pain by 40% and the general unpleasantness of pain by a whopping 57%. Comparatively, morphine and similar painkillers reduce pain only about 25%. The research done by Wake Forest is confirmed by another study conducted by University of Montreal.

Routine meditation can make making decisions easier.

Those who have trouble making decisions may find consistent meditation to be helpful. According to a study done by UCLA in 2012, those who routinely meditate for an extended amount of time have larger amounts of gyrification, that is folding of the brain’s cortex, than the average brain. Increased gyrification means additional surface area of the brain, which the study found enhances neural processing, or decision making. More studies are needed. However, the UCLA research found this to imply that meditation can lead to improvements in the way the brain performs a series of tasks, including making decisions.

Consistent meditation is more important than lengthy meditation.

Many give up on meditation because they think that long periods of time are needed each day to achieve any notable differences. Pedram Shojai is the author of Urban Monk: Eastern Wisdom and Modern Hacks to Stop Time and Find Success, Happiness, and Peace. He says being consistent with short bursts of meditation is far more effective than than inconsistent longer periods of time meditating. According to Shojai, only 10-20 minutes per day are all it takes to begin noticing differences. As he explains, “A little bit every day builds a cushion against stress and keeps you from getting knocked off your perch.” Simply put, experts who have undergone mindfulness meditation training will all agree that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to mindfulness practice.

The brain functions better with meditation.

The longer you make meditation a consistent part of your day, the more positive effects meditation has on the brain. In a 2013 Psychology Today article, Dr. Rebecca Gladding asserts that regular meditation “loosens” the neural pathways between the brain’s fear center and what Gladding refers to as the “Me Center.” That’s the spot in the brain which constantly reflects back to our conscious self. When meditation loosens these neural pathways they decrease feelings of fear and anxiety. In addition, new neural pathways, including more positive empathetic responses, begin to form. Additionally, mantra meditation is simple practice that can be an excellent way to promote inner peace and self love.

Even heart health can be improved through meditation.

The brain isn’t the only part of the body that improves with consistent meditation. A study published in the November 2012 edition of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes found that meditation can play a large part in improving heart health. To kick off the study, 201 people with coronary heart disease were given the option of taking a class on either transcendental meditation or health through improved diet and exercise.. But the connection between heart health and meditation remains encouraging.

Thousands of people have overcome addictions using mindful meditation.

Myriad studies have been conducted over recent years. One study looked at 19 adult alcohol-dependent graduates of an outpatient program. Fifteen of them underwent an eight-week meditation course. By the end of the study, 47% of the participants reported total abstinence. An additional 47% reported only one “heavy drinking” day. By the end of the program, 87% of the participants referred to meditation as “very important” for those struggling with addiction. Eighty five percent called it a “useful relapse prevention tool” and 90% said they were “very likely” to continue meditation.

Meditation reduces stress.

Stress reduction is perhaps the best known, and most widely accepted, benefit of meditation. Science has repeatedly proven that this benefit is indeed based in scientific fact, as opposed to being merely “mental.” In multiple recent studies, researchers have found that mindful meditation reduced the production of cytokines. The test subjects experienced stress reduction in as few as eight weeks. Mindfulness based stress reduction is just one of the incredible reasons why people are the the world are practicing meditation.

Meditation can improve one’s attention span.

There’s a good reason so many teachers are implementing methods of meditation into the classroom: meditation can lengthen attention spans! In one study, a group of human resource workers who consistently practiced meditation were able to stay focused and on task for longer periods of time than those who did not practice meditation. The meditating employees were even able to recall details better than the others.

Meditating can increase kindness.

Here’s a great argument for widespread meditation. Meditation increases feelings of social connectedness towards strangers, improving levels of love and kindness. That’s what a 2008 study published by the American Psychological Association found. As with the case of stress reduction, meditation is able to reduce inflammation in the brain by limiting the production of cytokines. This leads to less stress and anxiety. It also encourages increased feelings of love and kindness in the brain.

Meditation can keep us from aging.

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